Defense Department Mistakes Keep Contracts From Disabled Veterans

Mar 7, 2012

A 2004 law requires a certain percentage of federal contracting dollars to go to small businesses owned by service disabled veterans. But a recent inspector's report from the Department of Defense finds that in 2010, more than two dozen contracts were awarded to companies that weren't eligible.  

It's another case of federal departments not working together. And the problem frustrates a lot of people including Second District Congressman Joe Courtney. "It's one of the most exasperating issues I've encountered in five years of Congress." He's referring to more than $340 million dollars of federal contracts  that should have gone to disabled veteran owned businesses. Instead the work was awarded to companies that weren't qualified for the set aside program. Courtney contends there's no reason for the mistakes because the federal VA has a database that the DOD could use to verify identities such as whether a veteran has a service connected disability. He says this information could easily be incorporated into the contracting process at the Pentagon. Instead, Courtney says the DOD allows bidders to self identify or uses outdated information when deciding on contracts.  "Whether it was intentional, fraudulent, or just negligent is not something I think anyone went in to but the fact of the matter is this state of affairs has been identified in the past." On top of awarding set asides to ineligible contractors, Courtney says the DOD isn't even meeting a law the requires at least three percent of federal contracts go to disabled veteran owned businesses.  He's written to DOD Secretary Leon Pannetta for answers on how the department will correct the problem. Courtney says if there's no resolution, he'll introduce legislation that will require the DOD to use the VA database to administer the set aside program.